Friday, April 25, 2014

This Day in WWII History: Apr 25, 1945: Americans and Russians link up, cut Germany in two

 us soviet troops elbe April 25, 1945   East meets West

File:Happy 2nd Lieutenant William Robertson and Lt. Alexander Sylvashko, Russian Army, shown in front of sign (East Meets... - NARA - 531276.tif

On this day in 1945, eight Russian armies completely encircle Berlin, linking up with the U.S. First Army patrol, first on the western bank of the Elbe, then later at Torgau. Germany is, for all intents and purposes, Allied territory.

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The Allies sounded the death knell of their common enemy by celebrating. In Moscow, news of the link-up between the two armies resulted in a 324-gun salute; in New York, crowds burst into song and dance in the middle of Times Square. Among the Soviet commanders who participated in this historic meeting of the two armies was the renowned Russian Marshal Georgi K. Zhukov, who warned a skeptical Stalin as early as June 1941 that Germany posed a serious threat to the Soviet Union.

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Zhukov would become invaluable in battling German forces within Russia (Stalingrad and Moscow) and without. It was also Zhukov who would demand and receive unconditional surrender of Berlin from German General Krebs less than a week after encircling the German capital. At the end of the war, Zhukov was awarded a military medal of honor from Great Britain.

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Taken from: [25.04.2014]

Thursday, April 24, 2014

This Day in WWII History: Apr 24, 1876: Erich Raeder, commander in chief of the German navy, is born on this day

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On this day in 1876, Erich Raeder, proponent of an aggressive naval strategy and the man who convinced Adolf Hitler to invade Norway, is born.

 Erhard Milch, Wilhelm Keitel, Walther von Brauchitsch, Erich Raeder, and Maximilian von Weichs during a Nazi rally in Nuremberg, Germany, 12 Sep 1938

Raeder began his career by violating the terms of the post-World War I Treaty of Versailles, advocating the construction of submarines in 1928 to strengthen the German navy. He was made grand admiral during World War II and executed the invasion of Norway and Denmark.,_Kiel,_Paul_v._Hindenburg,_Erich_Raeder.jpg

 He fell out with Hitler over strategy and was ultimately removed from his command. He would end his career before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. Sentenced to life imprisonment for "instigation of the navy to violate the rules of war," he was released because of ill health in 1955.

Taken from: [24.04.2014]

Friday, April 11, 2014

This Day in WWII History: Apr 11, 1945: The U.S. army liberates Buchenwald concentration camp

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On this day in 1945, the American Third Army liberates the Buchenwald concentration camp, near Weimar, Germany, a camp that will be judged second only to Auschwitz in the horrors it imposed on its prisoners.


 File:Bones of anti-Nazi German women still are in the crematoriums in the German concentration camp at Weimar, Germany.jpg

As American forces closed in on the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald, Gestapo headquarters at Weimar telephoned the camp administration to announce that it was sending explosives to blow up any evidence of the camp--including its inmates. What the Gestapo did not know was that the camp administrators had already fled in fear of the Allies. A prisoner answered the phone and informed headquarters that explosives would not be needed, as the camp had already been blown up, which, of course, was not true.

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A Russian survivor, liberated by the 3rd Armored Division of the U.S. First Army, identifies a former camp guard who brutally beat prisoners on April 14, 1945, at the Buchenwald concentration camp in Thuringia, Germany. (AP Photo)


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The camp held thousands of prisoners, mostly slave laborers. There were no gas chambers, but hundreds, sometimes thousands, died monthly from disease, malnutrition, beatings, and executions. Doctors performed medical experiments on inmates, testing the effects of viral infections and vaccines.


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Among the camp's most gruesome characters was Ilse Koch, wife of the camp commandant, who was infamous for her sadism. She often beat prisoners with a riding crop, and collected lampshades, book covers, and gloves made from the skin of camp victims.

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 These are Buchenwald concentration camp guards who have gotten a beating from the prisoners upon liberation of camp by the Americans. The picture was taken in April 1945, by the U.S. military photographer Elizabeth Miller.


Among those saved by the Americans was Elie Wiesel, who would go on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.


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Taken from: [11.04.2014]


Thursday, April 10, 2014

This Day in WWII History: Apr 10, 1941: Croatia declares independence

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On this day in 1941, the German and Italian invaders of Yugoslavia set up the Independent State of Croatia (also including Bosnia and Herzegovina) and place nationalist leader Ante Pavelic's Ustase, pro-fascist insurgents, in control of what is no more than a puppet Axis regime.

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The Ustase began a relentless persecution of Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and antifascist Croats. As many as 350,000 to 450,000 victims were massacred, and the Jasenovac concentration camp would become infamous as a slaughterhouse.

 File:Ante Pavelić und Joachim von Ribbentrop .jpg

Croatia's Serbs gave sporadic resistance, but it was the communist partisans, led by Josip Broz Tito (a Croat himself), who provided antifascist leadership. By 1944, most of Croatia--apart from the main cities--was liberated from Axis forces, and Croats joined partisan ranks in large numbers. As the war neared its end, however, many Croats, especially those who had been involved with the Ustase regime or who had opposed the communists, sought refugee status with the Allies. But British commanders handed them over to the partisans, who slaughtered tens of thousands, including civilians, on forced marches and in death camps.

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Taken from: [10.04.2014]

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

This Day in WWII History: Apr 8, 1945: Defiant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer is hanged

 File:Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1987-074-16, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.jpg

On this day in 1945, Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer is hanged at Flossenburg, only days before the American liberation of the POW camp. The last words of the brilliant and courageous 39-year-old opponent of Nazism were "This is the end--for me, the beginning of life."

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R0211-316, Dietrich Bonhoeffer mit Schülern.jpg

Two days after Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, lecturer at Berlin University, took to the radio and denounced the Nazi Fuhrerprinzip, the leadership principle that was merely a synonym for dictatorship. Bonhoeffer's broadcast was cut off before he could finish. Shortly thereafter, he moved to London to pastor a German congregation, while also giving support to the Confessing Church movement in Germany, a declaration by Lutheran and evangelical pastors and theologians that they would not have their churches co-opted by the Nazi government for propagandistic purposes.

Bonhoeffer returned to Germany in 1935 to run a seminary for the Confessing Church; the government closed it in 1937. Bonhoeffer's continued vocal objections to Nazi policies resulted in his losing his freedom to lecture or publish. He soon joined the German resistance movement, even the plot to assassinate Hitler. In April 1943, shortly after becoming engaged to be married, Bonhoeffer was arrested by the Gestapo.

Evidence implicating him in the plot to overthrow the government came to light and he was court-martialed and sentenced to die. While in prison, he acted as a counselor and pastor to prisoners of all denominations. Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison was published posthumously. Among his celebrated works of theology are The Cost of Discipleship and Ethics.

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Taken from: [08.04.2014]